Adolescent literature, written by authors with a concern for the illiteracy in the United States, and read by students growing in their ability to comprehend life, is a vital link in the personal exploration and adjustment needed by young persons as they proceed into adulthood. Many polls have been conducted by teachers and librarians to learn which authors and topics are meaningful to the young student at the secondary level. It is hoped that this study might assist the teacher in understanding the reading habits of students in a parochial atmosphere by providing a background to evaluate assignments given and to help the student not only in his academic growth but also in his personal and social growth in society. To know what a student is reading and why he chooses the sources he does can help a teacher understand the needs and perspectives of that student.
Does it make a difference when the student is raised by parents who are concerned about the spiritual growth of their child and thus enroll him in a school where literature is carefully chosen by teachers and librarians with the same concern? Do students in these settings read the same books as students in the public school systems? The results of the survey clearly indicate that students in parochial schools are affected by many of the same influences impinging on students of the public schools and do choose books with care to their own concerns.
The instrument devised to evaluate these concerns was developed with the assistance of two principals and two English teachers presently on the faculty of a parochial school. It was designed to obtain information from the students on which books they choose to read for recreation and which influences permeated their book choice, reading habits, story-plot choice, author knowledge, thematic subject material, reference and library habits and general purpose for reading.
The instrument was administered at five parochial schools during a regular class period to four-hundred-ten students which constituted approximately fifty percent of the junior and senior classes. Selected demographic data was asked for excluding the student's name. The first part requested a list of six books read and enjoyed followed by twenty two questions in multiple choice form which asked for reasons for their choices of reading material and information on their reading habits. The results were tabulated by hand and evaluated with numerical comparisons. With care to preserve anonymity, the results were then sent to the schools involved.
The respondents indicated they chose a book by its topic, preferring a true-to-life plot to assist them in solving their own problems and understanding the circumstances surrounding their peers. They stated that approximately three-to-six hours each week are spent reading and their enthusiasm is shared with friends rather than parents or teachers. Biographies are preferred in studying history. Favorite authors chosen were J. R. R. Tolkien, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, and C. S. Lewis. Favorite thematic categories included friendships, science fiction, fantasy and religion. The students affirmed their use of reference sources such as dictionaries and encyclopedias while indicating that they seldom use the libraries in their schools or communities.
The Hobbit by Tolkien was the most read book. Of the remaining twenty-five books selected, six were obviously media inspired such as Jaws and Star Wars. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and Lewis' Narnia, both allegorical fantasies, were high on the list with two of James Herriot's works featuring the loving care of a veterinarian also selected. Some other familiar authors whose books were chosen included Jack London, Alex Haley, Chaim Potok, and Judy Blume.
The students' book choices indicated a seriousness on their part as they view life. The instrument listed in one question the prominent authors who write primarily for the adolescent. The students surveyed chose books from these authors but primarily reached out to others who are writing for a wider audience. Perhaps the students have not been introduced to authors writing narratives primarily featuring teenagers or it may be that in their search for meaning, they have found understanding in a deeper context such as in the writing of Tolkien and Lewis.
Adolescence is a time for questions. A healthy class or family discussion centered around a characterization in a book, written about a subject their own age, can be powerful. When a teacher knows the reading interests and habits of a student, participation can be mutual in understanding more about life from books and in growing to appreciate the value of literature.
Marilyn C. Teele
Robert P. Dunn
Grosvenor R. Fattic
Rick E. Williams
Master of Arts (MA)
Year Degree Awarded
Date (Title Page)
Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings
Youth -- Books and reading
Subject - Local
Loma Linda University. English Program -- Dissertations
Loma Linda University Libraries
This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.
Davis, Sylvia J., "A Survey of Adolescent Reading Habits and Influences : A Study in Selected Parochial Secondary Schools" (1979). Loma Linda University Electronic Theses, Dissertations & Projects. 548.
Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives